2004 presidential campaign

“People Don’t Know What Insurance Is!”

Deal W. Hudson

Published August 24, 2009

“It’s a myth to say our health care system is broken – it is the best in the world.” That politically incorrect assertion comes from a man with more than 25 years of experience working for one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies. “When the wealthy and powerful from all over the world choose to come to the U.S. for medical procedures and treatment, the message is clear.”

Jack Whelan, a well-known Catholic philanthropist from Indianapolis, is an active Legatus member and has been chairman of the board of the Culture of Life Foundation for 10 years. But for 25 years, Whelan worked for Golden Rule Insurance, eventually becoming COO, president, and CEO. Golden Rule, now a United Healthcare Company, has been offering health insurance for more than 60 years.

Golden Rule, and Whelan himself, was deeply involved in the lobbying that led to legislation creating health savings accounts (HSA).

“The biggest problem with the present health-care debate is that people don’t know what insurance is,” Whelan told me in a recent phone interview. “Insurance,” he explained, “is not pre-payment of service, it is the transfer of risk of the financial impact of a potential event from yourself to a company.”

Whelan used the example of homeowners’ insurance. Your homeowners’ insurance does not cover replacing your roof after years of normal wear and tear. But it does cover damage to your house caused by an unlikely event, such as high wind or a tree falling on it. “When you buy homeowners’ insurance you are transferring the potential expense of events like these,” he explained. You are not pre-paying to replace the roof; you are paying for the company to take the risk of a catastrophic event.

“Health insurance,” Whelan went on, “has evolved into something different. In addition to being the transfer of an economic risk, health insurance now includes some pre-payment for medical services.”

Since the majority of health insurance is provided by employers and the government through Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Affairs, and consumers pay only a modest portion of the insurance premium, there is no consumer motivation to control consumption. Going to the doctor has, as Whelan put it, become “like going to the grocery store without having to pay.”

Whelan asked me to imagine two scenarios:

In the first, you are given permission to go shopping at your favorite grocery store without having to pay for the items filling your basket. What would you pick off the shelves? Premium steaks and the finest wine? Of course! Compare that with the second scenario: the way you normally shop for groceries. The steaks and the wine go back on the shelves, because you are paying. As Whelan pointed out, “Assuming the cost directly impacts the kind of decisions we make about consumption and how we behave when we spend our money.”

The key to a “workable alternative to government-run health care” is lowering the cost of health care by bringing consumer choice back into the health-care equation. Giving control of health care to the government is exactly the opposite of what will bring costs down, one of the four goals sought by the Catholic bishops.

Only a portion of health care – but an expensive part – remains a transfer of risk. Treatment of cancer, for example, is not a financial event that everyone will face one day. The health insurance company assumes that risk.

But – and this is crucial – insurance companies have to set their pricing for medical coverage to cover the behavior of consumers who are not controlling their personal consumption of day-to-day medical services for things like colds, flu, cuts, bruises, sprains, skin rashes, and various physiological and psychological services now offered under insurance plans. For example, how many massages and visits to the psychologist would you pay for if they were coming out of your own pocket?

Whelan’s point is simple:

When we spend our own money, we control our consumption – that is the factor missing in our health-care coverage which, for the most part, is paid for by employers or the government.
Consideration of price needs to be put back into the health insurance equation. This will immediately change the dynamics of consumption and the cost. If everyone purchased his or her own high-deductible health insurance and combined it with a health savings account (HSA), health insurance would once again become what it should be: the transfer of risk, not prepayment for predictable medical needs.

Under such a plan, everyone would pay out-of-pocket from their HSA for normal medical needs, and the insurance company would assume the risk for high-dollar medical costs. Once the consumer starts considering the costs of medical care, consumption will go down, and so will the cost of health insurance, without diminishing the quality of this nation’s medical services.

The U.S. Catholic Conference Strikes Again

Published December 1, 2000

Catholics must wonder sometimes why the U.S. Catholic Conference (USCC) exists. On October 16, Catholic News Service (CNS) of the USCC issued a story with the headline, “Gore sees hope for ‘common ground’ movement on abortion.” Written by Patricia Zapor, based on an interview with the vice president, the article serves to provide official Catholic cover for a pro-abortion presidential candidate whose most ardent supporters are the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and Planned Parenthood.

The phrase “common ground,” of course, was brought into Catholic parlance by the late Joseph Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago, who wanted to provide a forum for Catholics to discuss their differences on issues like Church authority and the role of the priesthood. Abortion was never put on the common ground table: To seek common ground on abortion is to accept that some number of innocent lives can be taken. This is Gore’s position. Cardinal Bernadin would have never accepted such a compromise with the culture of death.

The fact that such a story would come out of CNS makes one wonder how much the culture of death has a grip on the USCC. That those who edit these stories and write their headlines would not immediately reject such a wording indicates a serious lack of Catholic judgment at CNS. It is not the case that Zapor was simply quoting Gore with comment; she uses his language without quotation in the middle of the article: “Gore said he sees a bourgeoning grassroots movement seeking common ground on abortion.”

Anyone who is in the business of Catholic journalism knows full well that to use the phrase “common ground” is to draw on the moral and spiritual capital of Cardinal Bernadin’s legacy. I suppose we can look forward to further CNS articles on the search for common ground on euthanasia and partial-birth abortion.

The USCC also raised numerous eyebrows with the release of its presidential candidate questionnaire on October 17. The first nine pages of the questionnaire were released that morning, with the remaining eleven pages inexplicably added the next afternoon. For legal reasons, the USCC explains, the questionnaire contains “verbatim responses and comments” of candidates to questions posed by the conference. Legal arguments aside, the result is unfortunate, because once again a pro-abortion candidate is provided an official Catholic forum to mislead the Catholic public.

On partial-birth abortion, Gore is quoted as saying, “Al Gore opposes late-term abortion and the procedure of partial-birth abortion…. Al Gore believes that any law prohibiting the partial-birth abortion procedure must be narrowly tailored, and should include protections for the life and health of the mother.” (Note that Gore sent his comments to the USCC in the third person, which makes them appear written by the bishops, while Bush’s comments were published in the first person.) The leadership at the

USCC knows that the health exception effectively negates the partial-birth abortion ban, but the format allows Gore to mislead Catholics who are not fully informed on this issue.

This is a repeat of the 1996 USCC candidate questionnaire that allowed Clinton to get away with the same misrepresentation of his position on abortion. Catholics helped to elect Clinton, and the unborn have been his victims. Protests were lodged then, so this time the conference action is surely intentional. If the USCC cannot present the candidates’ views in a way that truthfully informs the Catholic public, then the conference should stop issuing questionnaires altogether.

There is no doubt in my mind that the USCC legal department is overly cautious: I am sure that Catholic bishops have the constitutional right to inform Catholics how a candidate’s position stands in relation to a clearly defined moral teaching of the Church. Moral guidance is a bishop’s job, and as far as I know, the IRS cannot and will not object. Such judgments do not constitute partisan activity, although they may affect the voting behavior of Catholic voters.

There are many issues of public policy where common ground should be sought between Democrats and Republicans in relation to Catholic social teaching—abortion is not one of them. Catholics depend on the USCC for accuracy in promulgating the teachings of the Church and representing them to those in the media and to Congress. These events during the crucial final weeks before the election demand scrutiny of the CNS and a reassessment of future candidate questionnaires.

The Christian Review — A Guide to Readers and Writers

Deal W. Hudson

Published December 20, 2014

We’ve received much positive feedback over the past few days since the launch of The Christian Review, including a number of inquiries from potential contributors. The “more the merrier” is our attitude toward both writers and readers.

Rather than publishing a style sheet or mission statement, we offer this somewhat light-hearted list of what we would like The Christian Review to be and not to be.

The Christian Review will not be:

1. A platform for airing predictable grievances with the White House, the Congress, the political parties, or politics in general.
2. A forum for the same worn out stories about the Vatican II Church, liberal bishops, the USCCB, or guitar music (well, maybe complaining about guitar music is OK.)
3. A grouchy, cranky, or screechy hangout for joyless Catholics and other depressed Christians.
4. An exhibition of Christian kitsch, whether pictorial or verbal.
5. A place where the old saws of faith and spirituality are repeated as if they had some sort of talismanic power.
6. A vantage point from where Christians can look down and declare judgment upon the unsaved, the unenlightened, the unconverted, or the unbelieving (however criticizing bad taste is always fair game!).
7. A virtual political messaging machine for the GOP, as if it is always right and the Democrats always wrong, or as if God is on the side of one and not the other.
8. A “conservative” voice harassing its readers with party-line, or Fox News, talking points.
9. A Victorian parlor where Christians avoid talking about certain “forbidden” topics, or if the “forbidden” is mentioned everyone pretends not to know anything about it.
10. A hothouse for dank, poisonous rants about the state of the world, the end of civilization, or the imminent Apocalypse.

To read the remainder at The Christian Review please click on this link.

A Little Hard to Believe–Kerry on Abortion

Deal W. Hudson

On Sunday, John Kerry told Iowa’s Telegraph Herald that he personally opposes abortion and believes that life begins at conception. The exact quote is as follows:

“I oppose abortion, personally. I don’t like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception.”


You may recall the e-letter I sent you in February that covered this very issue. In it, I had assembled several past Kerry comments that seemed to show that Senator Kerry does NOT really oppose abortion – publicly or personally.

For example, compare his recent statement with the remarks he made at last year’s NARAL Pro-Choice America Dinner:

“I think that tonight we have to make it clear that we are not going to turn back the clock. There is no overturning of Roe v. Wade… There is no outlawing of a procedure necessary to save a woman’s life or health and there are no more cutbacks on population control efforts around the world. We need to take on this President and all of the forces of intolerance on this issue. We need to honestly and confidently and candidly take this issue out to the country and we need to speak up and be proud of what we stand for.”

Did you catch that? Not only should abortion be available to all American women, all the time, but it should be used as a population control valve around the world. And this is something we should “be proud of.” Not what you’d expect from someone who claims he doesn’t like abortion.

And this isn’t an isolated comment…

From the Boston Herald on January 23, 2001: “I will not back away from my conviction that international family planning programs are in America’s best interests. We should resist pressures in this country for heavy-handed Washington mandates that ignore basic choices that should belong to free people around the globe.”

Kerry’s support for “international family planning programs” – a standard euphemism for “abortion” – is an issue he’s advocated for some time. If Kerry is telling the truth about being “personally opposed” to abortion, why is he trying to spread it worldwide?

But perhaps the most outrageous quote comes from the 1994 Congressional record: “The right thing to do is to treat abortions as exactly what they are – a medical procedure that any doctor is free to provide and any pregnant woman free to obtain. Consequently, abortions should not have to be performed in tightly guarded clinics on the edge of town; they should be performed and obtained in the same locations as any other medical procedure… [A]bortions need to be moved out of the fringes of medicine and into the mainstream of medical practice. And by the same token, if our children are to be safe from the danger of fanaticism, tolerance needs to spread out of the mainstream churches, mosques, and synagogues, and into the religious fringes.”

Abortion is simply “a medical procedure”? If that were true, then on what grounds could he possibly be personally opposed to it? He certainly doesn’t seem to be struggling with the issue here. And how exactly does he propose to “spread tolerance” to the “religious fringes”? Presumably, he’s referring to the people who, as an article of faith, believe abortion to be immoral. But didn’t he just claim to be one of those very people?

John Kerry says he believes that abortion is wrong and that life begins at conception. And yet he vows to do everything he can to make sure that women have the freedom and right to end that life.

You can say a lot of things about a position like that. But you certainly can’t say it’s Catholic.